Have you ever used the mute function on Twitter? If you haven’t, you probably should. The button allows you to block certain words from appearing on your timeline. For example, if you haven’t seen the latest episode of EastEnders and want to avoid potential spoilers; mute ‘EastEnders’ and Bob’s your uncle. But it goes deeper than that. Muting certain words might actually improve your mental health.
We live in a world where the news is readily available. Our Twitter and Facebook feeds are full of stories about terrorism, murder, natural disasters and political corruption. Everywhere we look, negative headlines, mouthy commenters and emotive imagery confront us. There’s only so much of that we can take before it starts to impact our mood. Speaking to the Huffington Post, psychologist Graham Davey said over-exposure to negative news can make someone feel stressed, anxious, or depressed. He says, “Negative news can affect your own personal worries. Viewing negative news means you’re likely to see your personal worries as more threatening and severe… you’re more likely to find [them] difficult to control and more distressing than [they’d] normally be.”
These destructive feelings are triggered by certain buzzwords, such as ‘ISIS’, ‘attack’, or ‘killed’; words suggesting danger is afoot. As much as we might want to look away, we’re drawn in by them. A study at McGill University found people are enticed by bad news; like rubbernecked drivers trying to get a glimpse of a bad crash. It’s human instinct to look; and once we’re sucked in, it’s all downhill from there.
Negative news enables so-called ‘modern outrage culture’; a frame of mind whereby we react to the news with our hearts, rather than our heads. We get pulled into stories that have no real relevance in our lives; we take screenshots; we vent about the content on social media and in group-chats to our friends. Comment sections on news sites (and across social media platforms) are full of strangers arguing about everything from referendums to celebrity divorces. Stories can take hold of us; leaving us feeling angry, frustrated and annoyed.
That’s where the mute button can change your life. If you find yourself being triggered by particular types of content; remove it. If the recent cervical cancer scandal is upsetting you; mute all the words connected to it. TV, radio and newspaper coverage is still there if you need an update on what’s happening; you don’t need it blasted onto your timeline 24/7.
Deleting apps is easier said than done, but small changes can make a huge difference. Switch your phone off from time to time and enjoy the break from negative headlines. Swap your nightly scroll through Twitter for something more mood-friendly; read a book, watch a TV show; take up embroidery. Importantly, refrain from commenting on news stories until you’ve thought it through. Is it really necessary to argue with that man online, or would it do your mind good to step away?
Do what makes you feel good. If the news on social media is bringing you down; something’s got to change.
Photo: Kayla Velasquez, Unsplash